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Beaucaire is a barber for the Royal French court who becomes a real "royal pain" for the king. As a result he is sent to the guillotine - however he is saved by the Duc de Chandre, who rescues and transports him to the Spanish court. While there Beaucaire poses as a noblesman. The only problem is, he gets into even more trouble. Written by
This film was done when Hope was at or near the peak of both his film popularity and his comic abilities. Based on a Booth Tarkington novella, which had served Rudolph Valentino with mixed results in 1924 (he acted well, but the part labeled him as gay with certain male critics), the story is how Hope is the barber at Versailles to King Louis XV (Reginald Owen), gets into serious hot water with the King and Queen (Constance Collier) and is forced to flee the palace disguised as the Duc de Chandre (Patrick Knowles). Owen has sent Knowles to Spain to get rid of him (he's a rival for Madame de Pompadour - Hillary Brooke), and to have him marry the daughter of the King of Spain (Marjorie Reynolds, who is daughter to Howard Freeman). But Knowles is a target for an assassination by minions of the head of the Spanish Army (Don Francisco - Joseph Schildkraut). So Knowles and his associate (Cecil Kellaway) let Hope masquerade as Knowles. Knowles, in the meantime, is looking for the delightful looking woman he met on the way to Spain - he does not realize it is Reynolds. And Hope keeps crossing paths with his old girlfriend, Mimi (Joan Caulfield), who is furious at him for getting her banished from France accidentally.
In 1946 Hope was between 44 and 42 years old, so physically he still looked reasonably presentable as a man (when properly made up with make-up) who is in his 30s. That helps considerably. Compare this film to it's Technicolor counterpart in the middle 1950s, CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT. In that film the plot is very similar, but the middle aged man, with the middle aged spread is not believable as even a comic substitute for the great lover. He is just plausible in BEAUCAIRE. He also demonstrates his timing is sharper, and he even demonstrates (possibly accidentally, but one wonders) a gift for mimicry. At one point he is speaking when behind a mask as though he is Owen, and he momentarily does capture something of the speech pattern and bluster of the English actor.
As pure escapism the film is more than adequate. As history it is questionable. Schildkraut is a type of Spanish Napoleon, wanting to overthrow the royal family in a war between Spain and France. Hence the need for the royal marriage that involves Knowles and Reynolds. But the military in Spain in the 18th Century produced no such figure as Don Fernando (it is hard to believe the screen writers Norman Panama and Melvin Frank were thinking of a later adventurer and court favorite Count Godoy). Owen is quite good at being Louis (he had played the role a decade earlier in the George Arliss film VOLTAIRE). The year is never giver - actually it is quite vague, but 1765 seems the most probable year: At one point Collier and Owen are reminiscing about their wedding. Queen Marie (the daughter of the King of Poland) married Louis in 1725, and Owen mentions they've been married 40 years). The Queen died in 1768, and Louis died in 1774. The problem is that the Spanish King is Philip II in the cast. King Philip II of Spain ruled from 1555
1598. The King of Spain in 1765 was Carlos III (notable for a number
of reforms, and being reluctantly drawn into policies by the French). You see, the Bourbon Family had begun ruling Spain in 1714, at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, when King Louis XIV's second oldest son became King Philip V of Spain (the Philip they screenwriters were probably thinking of). But the so-called "Family Compact" united the foreign policies of Spain and France for most of the 18th Century. So the threat of a war between the two countries never really existed in history at this time.
There are many nice touches in the film: Hope's attempt at suicide (with an unknotted hangman's noose) that is almost pushed to completion by his friend Leonid Kinski; Hope's mimicry of Owen (mentioned above); the climactic duel between Hope and Schildkraut, in which both men get entangled with a harp and a cello. Caulfield and Knowles both get a chance to sing. And Hope even (with Schildkraut's assistance) gets a passing shot (literally) at his rival/friend from the "Road" Pictures. It remains an entertaining spoof, and one of Hope's best comedies.
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